How we are improving the application process for customers with accessibility requirements

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Introduction 

As an organisation we are  committed to do more testing with people with accessibility needs. This will ensure that our services can be easily accessed by everyone and to meet our legal obligations as a public sector organisation. We aim to recruit participants with accessibility needs in every round of research that we do to ensure that accessibility is considered at every stage of the project. 

We tested extensively the prototype for the Green jobs grant which was launched in the summer of 2021. 

Our goals  

We had a number of aims for this research:

  • To test the application journey with users who have a range of accessibility needs and to find what the challenges were for them in our journey  
  • To get clarity on what areas worked well  
  • We wanted to discover if different needs give conflicting priorities  
Continue reading “How we are improving the application process for customers with accessibility requirements”

Writing for people, not businesses

Reading Time: 4 minutes

As an enterprise agency, our role is to support economic development, and this includes offering support and information to businesses in Scotland. This sometimes results in the misconception that our users are simply ‘businesses’.

But that’s not strictly the case. Even though our services are aimed at businesses, it’s still individual people that read our content, navigate application forms or contact our experts. They could be business owners, CEOs, accountants, finance directors, department heads, or any other individual within an organisation. And, being real people, there are a whole range of different needs and situations we need to consider when writing for them.

Continue reading “Writing for people, not businesses”

The silver bullet

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Anyone who’s worked on iterative design projects – sometimes called ‘agile’ projects, although that term itself often hinders understanding, rather than helping it – will know that reflection is a key part of the journey. We’ve been doing a lot of reflection lately, and it’s prompted me to reflect on what digital transformation is – or perhaps more importantly, what it isn’t.

Continue reading “The silver bullet”

10 things that businesses consistently tell us

Reading Time: 5 minutes

When we do user research with businesses, we often hear the same things over and over again, regardless of which design, platform or web page we’re testing.  

Here are a few things that our customers consistently tell us: 

1. Get to the point 

Business owners are time-poor. They don’t want to waste time reading through a lot of content. We need to get to the point quickly or we’ll lose them. 

They like clear, simple language and bullet points. They hate long paragraphs and jargon. 

When it comes to our digital services, we tend to focus a lot of how things work technically and what they look like – which are both important – but so much of the feedback we get from customers is about the words that we use. Words matter. We need to choose them carefully. 

Customer quotes 

  • “There are a lot of words there and my time is really precious.”  
  • “I don’t have the time to read the whole page.”  
  • “I’m dyslexic – that wall of words is off putting. I’d prefer to see it broken down a wee bit.” 
Continue reading “10 things that businesses consistently tell us”

Let’s green our web : part 2

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Last week I read a Twitter thread from Gerry McGovern. He’s a bit of a guru in designing digital experiences and is also passionate about the impact that ‘digital’ is having on the environment.


‘Organisation with 100 million visits a year finds that 5% of its content is getting over 80% of visits. Over 100,000 pages have not been reviewed in 10 years.
We produce content. We do not manage it. 90% of content is crap. It was like this 25 years ago. It’s still the same.’

The tweet from Gerry McGovern says that content on websites is not actively managed and in many cases not reviewed for years

It made me think about the Scottish Enterprise website and whether we saw the same statistics. So, I asked our product owner David what our customers were looking at.

Continue reading “Let’s green our web : part 2”

User experience begins long before someone reaches your website

Reading Time: 4 minutes

COVID-19. Collective sigh. If you’re not jaded by it all yet then your reserves of positivity surely know no bounds.

The winds of change that have blown across our world as a result of this surreal event are quite incredible. And many things will never be the same again.

Small town centres, previously peppered with empty shops, are bustling. Employers are embracing remote working like never before. Deserted city centre scenes, previously only featured in apocalyptic movies, have graced the evening news.

But some things haven’t changed.

Many organisations continue to create policy, advice, products and services in complete ignorance of how user behaviour in the modern age will define their effectiveness.

There’s been no more perfect example of this than the four corners of the UK all having different and, in many cases, contradictory rules and advice for citizens to follow during this pandemic.

Continue reading “User experience begins long before someone reaches your website”

When users tell you that you’re focusing on the wrong thing – listen to them

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Part of me wonders if I should say this, but…I love it when user research goes wrong. 

Sometimes you go into user research with a hypothesis and the research validates it. That’s great. That’s easy. But what I really love is when you go in with a hypothesis and the research totally flips it on its head. That’s when you learn the most.  

I recently did some user research on a document that we’re using to support our new approach to helping companies. It outlines what their project is, what support Scottish Enterprise and our partners can offer them, and how we plan to measure outcomes. We went in wanting to know what companies thought about the format of the document and if there was anything about it that didn’t work for them. We hypothesized that: 

  • Some of the language wasn’t customer-focused enough, and people would be put off by it 
  • The second page of the document that lists the support that we offer would be the section that businesses would refer to the most 
  • They would prefer a digital version of the document over a paper version 
Continue reading “When users tell you that you’re focusing on the wrong thing – listen to them”

Skills Development Scotland (SDS) sharing session – Design systems

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Earlier on in the year, myself, and Derek Hawthorne from SDS connected on LinkedIn about a mutual interest in an article about making the web a greener place. Through further conversation we discovered that we are both working on Design Systems.  

SDS are at the very early stage of creating a Design system while we are further on in our journey.  Derek reached out to see if we could share what we are doing, so we set up a sharing session. 

Continue reading “Skills Development Scotland (SDS) sharing session – Design systems”

How providing tech support helped me understand our customers better

Reading Time: 3 minutes
'Funding for green jobs' page on the Scottish Enterprise website

As part of the recent Green Jobs funding call, the project team asked if the service design team could help with level two system support. This meant helping with technical issues that customers were having if the enquiry team couldn’t resolve them. 

I didn’t want to do it at first. I’m not really that technical, and I was afraid that I wouldn’t know how to help. Even though our service adoption team gave us training and a knowledge bank that we could use, I still didn’t feel confident on my first shift. 

To my surprise, it was actually an interesting – and eye-opening – experience. Here’s what I learned: 

Continue reading “How providing tech support helped me understand our customers better”

How many people does it take to design and build a service?

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Scottish Enterprise is changing. We are delivering services to customers and stakeholders in new ways, this gives us a fabulous opportunity but also presents some challenges.

As the team leader for the user centered design team at Scottish Enterprise I hear comments such as ‘What do you mean when you say service’, ‘We don’t really know what you do or who you are’ and also ‘But don’t you just build websites? Why do you care about all this other stuff that’s not digital?’

It prompted me to think what was causing this perception and how I felt four years ago when I joined the digital team at Scottish Enterprise. I was struck by how many people are involved and therefore how confusing it can be.

Continue reading “How many people does it take to design and build a service?”

What businesses think about Fair Work and Net Zero

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The way that we support businesses is changing. As part of these changes, we’re putting a bigger emphasis on ensuring that the companies that we support meet, or are working towards, Fair Work and Net Zero principles.  

What are Fair Work and Net Zero? 

Fair Work logo

Fair Work

Fair work is work that offers all individuals an effective voice, opportunity, security, fulfilment and respect: 

  • Effective voice: employers create a safe environment where dialogue and challenges are dealt with constructively, and where employee views are sought out, listened to and can make a difference 
  • Opportunity: fair opportunity allows people to access and progress in work and employment 
  • Security: people have reasonable security and stability of employment, income and work 
  • Fulfilment: people have access to fulfilling work 
  • Respect: people are treated respectfully, whatever their role and status 

Businesses that commit to Fair Work must sign up to these principles: 

  • Appropriate channels for effective voice and employee engagement, such as trade union recognition 
  • Investment in workforce development 
  • Actions to tackle the gender pay gap and create a more diverse and inclusive workplace 
  • No inappropriate use of zero-hours contracts 
  • Paying the Real Living Wage (currently £9.50 in Scotland) 
Continue reading “What businesses think about Fair Work and Net Zero”

How we improved the exporting user journey on the Scottish Enterprise website

Reading Time: 4 minutes

We recently redesigned the exports and international markets section of the Scottish Enterprise website. 

Our goals

  • Raise awareness of our exporting expertise and support – in order to help more businesses, we needed them to be aware of what support they can access through us
  • Create content that is relevant and useful to exporters and potential exporters – we wanted to ensure that content on our website was meeting user needs
  • Get more enquiries for exporting services and events – we wanted to get more people asking us about the services and events that we offer
  • Help users self-serve – we wanted to help people self-serve where possible, or signpost them to other help and support, at the right point in the customer journey
  • Get more users taking advantage of market opportunities – we wanted to help businesses understand what opportunities exist in overseas markets and how they can access them
Continue reading “How we improved the exporting user journey on the Scottish Enterprise website”

Accessibility – Sharing knowledge between organisations

Reading Time: 8 minutes
Using Skyscanner and Scottish Enterprise brand colour palette to show the same visual explanation to a11y being used for short for accessibility
Accessibility can be written as a11y for short — 11 is the number of letters between the first and last letters

Heather Hepburn is the Accessibility Lead for Skyscanner and has been running their accessibility programme for just over a year.

Stéphanie Krus works as a Service Designer and is a member of the ‘Disability Positive’ group at Scottish Enterprise.

We ‘met’ virtually in October 2020 after a talk at the UCD Gathering from Heather Hepburn (Skyscanner) and Adi Latif (AbilityNet): “Digital Accessibility – How to get your organisation on the right track” 

Screenshot of a slide presenting Heather and Adi at the start of the talk
Slide from the talk during the UCD Gathering conference

We realised we had a lot we could share regarding how we address and improve accessibility in our organisations.  So we planned a knowledge sharing session which was held online on 27 January 2021 with about 20 people.

Continue reading “Accessibility – Sharing knowledge between organisations”

From service designer to user researcher

Reading Time: 3 minutes

I started my career at Scottish Enterprise as a content designer. Actually, we were called ‘web content developers’ back then, before we really embraced the idea that there is more to content than just words on a web page. Then I joined the service design team as a service designer, and over the past few months, I’ve been doing a dual role as a service designer and user researcher.  

Continue reading “From service designer to user researcher”

How capabilities mapping helped us see the bigger picture

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The problem

We have a transformation programme underway across Scottish Enterprise. It was getting harder to see what needed to be done to deliver the bigger picture – rather than just bits of the jigsaw. In addition, many people were focusing solely on ‘the bit you need to build’, rather than seeing the whole service – end to end, online and offline.

Continue reading “How capabilities mapping helped us see the bigger picture”

How we made it easier for businesses to find coronavirus funding

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The problem

The FindBusinessSupport.gov.scot (FBS) website had to adapt quickly when the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic hit to ensure that businesses could access up-to-date information about what they needed to do and what support they could get.

Because new funds were constantly being offered, and guidance kept changing as we moved in and out of lockdown, we just added new content when changes were announced by the Scottish Government. We never had time to step back and think about the complete customer journey, and the coronavirus advice page had become very long and complex.

The challenge

The Scottish Government asked us to make it easier for businesses to access information about coronavirus funding and support on the FBS website, and they gave us two weeks to do it.

screenshots of heat maps for the desktop and mobile version of the coronavirus advice page
Heat maps are one of the tools we use to research how people use our website
Continue reading “How we made it easier for businesses to find coronavirus funding”

How to be a designer, teacher and parent at the same time

Reading Time: 3 minutes
A woman wearing a black dress with a white collar and burgundy tights sitting on a green and blue tartan carpet. She is leaning against a wall and has a laptop on her lap. She is also wearing a headset.
Me working in the hallway while my husband works in the office and my kids run around the living room

The title of this post is misleading. It implies that I’m going to provide you with tips on doing all these things well simultaneously. I’m not. It isn’t possible. What I am going to do is share how I have been balancing my job as a service designer with homeschooling my 5-year-old and chasing after my 2-year-old during this most recent lockdown.

Like many parents, I’ve been faced with an almost impossible task – do your job while also giving your children an education. If your working day is seven hours, and a school day is six hours, and a parenting day is around 12 hours, that’s 25 hours of work to fit within 24 hours. And that doesn’t include eating, sleeping, cooking, housework and this ‘self-care’ stuff that everyone is so big on these days.

Continue reading “How to be a designer, teacher and parent at the same time”